Friday, March 06, 2009

Friedman Says The Unmentionable

It seems like people don't want to face the truth. Some people have been calling this era of economic downturn as not a Great Depression in the making, but, instead the "Great Repression".

It has been said here many times the presence of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Larry Summers in tandem with the hovering spirit of Robert Rubin would portend for more of the same faulty economic decisions that got us into this fiscal turmoil. Nobody wants to say the banks are insolvent even as Citigroup flirted with sub-one dollar stock prices yesterday. And nobody would dare say the early-goings of the nascent Obama administration might flail in response to this crisis until Thomas Friedman wrote it yesterday in The New York Times and others quickly sought to skewer him. For instance, Vanity Fair's political blog.

"But do you know what I fear? I fear that his whole first term could be eaten by Citigroup, A.I.G., Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and the whole housing/subprime credit bubble we inflated these past 20 years," said Friedman before illustrating how big this banking beast really is and how nobody has a clue how to solve it.
I hope my fears are exaggerated. But ask yourself this: Why couldn’t former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson solve this problem? And why does it seem as though his successor, Tim Geithner, won’t even look us in the eye and spell out his strategy? Is it because they don’t get it? No. It is because they know — like Roy Scheider in the movie “Jaws,” when he first saw the great white shark — that “we’re gonna need a bigger boat,” and they’re too afraid to tell us just how big.
Instead, the administration seems to be relying on the American people to become inured to the price tags zooming by them. $700 billion there. $350 billion there. $14 billion there and $2 billion in aid to some far-flung despotic third-world country. After time, what's a few billion here or there. Most of us cannot grasp what a billion looks like anyway. Republicans like Sen. John McCain, on the other hand, are appalled at a mere $1.7 million earmarked to study the foul smell of pigs.

In the meantime, things are continuing to get worse. Jobless claims again rose to 651,000 spearing any hope that the we have hit the bottom. In reality, we may have reached that point, but the bottom is just becoming wider and will only persist until the administration confronts the banks in earnest.

I heard an interesting fact last week on Real Time with Bill Maher. The Chinese character for crisis is the same for the word opportunity. An interesting notion that Obama's pledge of change is not wholly grasping.


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